Halloween has come and gone and we are officially into the holiday season. Two months of spending and gorging yourself silly which eventually leads to resolution season, where you worry about whatever damage was done. Yet, given the success rate of New Year’s resolutions (80% fail by February), maybe we should short-circuit this annual cycle.
You can start by taking a more balanced approach to your holiday indulgences. Feel free to go crazy on Thanksgiving and Christmas—it is all that in-between time that tends to get us. If you can’t temper back the holiday consumption a bit in the first place, it seems unlikely that your extreme fitness plan and starvation diet will stick, anyway.
Which brings me to the larger point. Don’t pick an extreme fitness plan or a starvation diet. Your goal shouldn’t be to oscillate between extremes—bathing in gumdrops and cinnamon rolls and then punishing yourself with kale and dubstep infused spin sessions. I happen to like both kale and spin, but the point is that health and physique are about the long game. The worst thing you could do is shut your metabolism down by hardly eating and then return to your old habits. Most people flock to this route in hopes of quick results, but it causes weight to increase in the long run. Whatever changes you make should be sustainable for, like, ever.
Successful plans meet you where you are and inch in the right direction. You could be very happy eating only whole foods for 90+% of your meals, but not if you were pounding fast food and daily dessert a month prior. These things take time. It is the same with exercise. Maybe you’ll love CrossFit someday, but if you haven’t been on an exercise routine for years, I’m guessing you’re about a Fran away from deciding to take a few more years off.
We are in an impatient, results-now culture, but that just doesn’t work with fitness. What does work is consistency, patience, and a commitment to learning more as you go. For sustainable change, health can’t be a seasonal fad, it will need to be a value that you continue to cultivate.
Sustainability is the challenge and to produce sustainable action what you do before you start is even more important than the actions you decide to make habits. Before you decide to do anything, you’ll want to ace the pre-game.
Ace the Pre-Game
Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
The best program in the world will fail if you haven’t created the conditions that ensure you show up and do it. The doing it part is what gets people.
To help with this problem Justin Lind and I recently came together and identified the Five Principles to Start and Maintain Any New Change. These are steps you can begin taking right now, regardless of the holiday parties and hectic travel, to help ensure longterm success in your health goals. They are:
Leverage your positive social pressure. You have to reconcile the fact that you are a social creature living in a world that doesn’t naturally promote health and activity. Working against norms is hard. Yet, with a little thought, you can intentionally use your relationships to pull you to your desired actions. There are a billion ways to do this.
Carve out a specific, consistent time to do the new habit every day. This is probably the most important and most overlooked point. It boils down to the science of habit formation.
Start small (really small). Make the barrier to entry so low that success is inevitable. Doing more will naturally follow, but don’t force it.
Reduce friction to your desired actions and increase friction to possible saboteurs. Your surroundings can either nudge you towards success or pull you away. This is environmental design in a nutshell.
Trust the Process. You won’t feel like you are being transformed every day. Some days you just have to show up and trust your plan. The power doesn’t come from one herculean effort, but from all those micro-steps added together over time.
For a deeper dive into each of these five principles, Justin and I have created a free lesson that comes with a quick exercise block and finishes with gratitude and meditation. We package all of this in 30 minutes for a powerful mind, body, and spirit training dose to kickstart your day and, if you apply the lesson, prime whatever goals you want to conquer. It is all in the format of our 30×30 Challenge.
Again, training is always about the long game. You will want to test yourself and push your limits, but not early-on and not all the time. If at any point along the way you fall off your habits, just return to these five principles. They are easy to incorporate and will open the door to the actions that empower fuller living.